Superman #296: "Who Took The Super Out Of Superman?"

Superman #296
"Who Took The Super Out Of Superman?"
February, 1976

Story: Cary Bates and Eliot S! Maggin
Art: Curt Swan and Bob Oksner
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent can't understand what's happened to
him.  Now it's as if he has split into two different people -- the
Man of Steel and... a mortal man.  He must learn the answer to...
"Who Took The Super Out Of Superman!"

Years ago in a more innocent time, a small rocket made its way from
Krypton to the outskirts of Smallville.  Inside the rocket was the
baby who would be adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent.  On the other
side of the world, two others have seen another ship descending from
the sky...  The two prospectors found more than they bargained for
when the ship's defenses cut short their lives with a disruptive
blast.  The dawning of a new age on Earth began with two different
visitors to our world.

In Smallville, the President of the United States is on hand to greet
the town's hero... Superboy.  The Boy of Steel carries the
Presidential flag and is honored to meet President Kennedy.  The
young man is fast becoming a legend, but other eyes are also watching
his progress, too.

The visitor from another world has not aged since the time his ship
landed in the desert.  Returning to his hotel, the alien awaits the
incoming message from homeworld.  It has been sixteen years since he
began his mission on Earth and Xviar is soon greeted by the voices of
his masters.  They had not taken into account that their agent does
not show signs of aging, but Xviar has kept to himself over the
years.  He learns that Superboy will most likely settle in
Metropolis, and the agent will receive his next transmission when he
arrives there.

Years pass and in the skies near Metropolis, a swarm of killer bees
are making their way towards the great city, but in the center is the
Man of Steel.  Superman is unaware of what could be driving the
insects to Metropolis, but their stingers are useless against his
invulnerable skin.

By whirling at super-speed, the Action Ace catches the bees in an
updraft, and the few strays instinctively follow their friends.  As
the deadly swarm are carried out to sea, Superman's telescopic-vision
spots trouble on a small boat.  Four thieves have stolen valuables
from a cruise liner and are making their way to a submarine. 
Although well prepared for any normal occurrence, the four crooks
have not counted on a visit from Superman.

A flash of blue and red precedes the sight of three scuba thieves
being knocked into the drink.  The boat's driver threatens to use a
device to blow up the ocean liner, with the Man of Steel flying
backwards from the sight of the smoldering smokestack.

BZZZZZZ  It is now the crook's turn to be surprised when the bee
lands upon his hand.  SWATT!  A backhanded slap sends the fourth
thief into the water, where he is corralled with his friends in a
seaweed net, and dropped into the ocean liner's pool.  The Action Ace
is now free to finish up his task of saving the continent from the
killer bees.

Landing in an alleyway, the Man of Steel changes clothes, and Clark
Kent stashes the super-compressed costume in his mouth.  The mild-
mannered reporter is meeting Lois Lane and Steve Lombard for his
karate class, and is running a little late.  Half-a-block away from
the Lackey Judo School, one boy throws a football over his friend's
head.  The sight of the football has the sportscaster eager to prove
his gridiron greatness to his fans.  Lois sees that Steve is about to
run into the path of an oncoming cab, but it is Clark who races to
his coworker's side.

The mild-mannered reporter "bumps" the sportscaster out of harm's
way, but is clipped by the cab, and is sent to the pavement.  Steve
Lombard suddenly feels regret for all the things he's done to
"Clarkie," while Lois rushes to her friend's side, and tells the
Slinger to call an ambulance.  As the ambulance attendants load the
unconscious Clark Kent into the ambulance, none notice the presence
of Xviar.  The agent knows that in times past, the Man of Steel had
pretended to be ill as Clark Kent.  This time, however, things will
be... different.

At the hospital, the doctor and the nurse see that their patient has
regained consciousness.  The physician gives Clark a shot to calm him
down, and is grateful that no bones were broken.  The reporter is now
far from being mild-mannered at the sight of the needle entering his
arm.  The nurse wonders if it's a good idea for the visitors to see
their friend.  The doctor hopes that their presence will help to calm
the man down.  Lois smiles, while Steve tells "Clarkie" to get well
soon.  As the girl reporter leans closer to him, Clark can only
wonder what's happened to his powers.  The Slinger asks to see how
his grip is and isn't surprised that the reporter still has the
strength of a jellyfish. 

When the two have left, the patient gets out of bed, and removes the
compressed wafer from his mouth.  The Superman uniform expands to
normal size upon contact with the outer air and Clark makes a quick
change of clothes in the bathroom.  The Man of Steel will have to
come up with an explanation for the reporter's quick departure on the
morrow.  The hospital staff are surprised to see Superman in the

When asked what brings him to Metropolis General, the Action Ace
tells them that he's just visiting a sick friend.  Outside the
hospital, Superman must decide how to get home, and looks up towards
the sky.  Three sky-crooks on jet-platforms are making their
getaway.  The pedestrians point up at the crooks, then shift their
gaze towards the Man of Steel.  He knows that it takes more than
clothing to make a Superman, and grabs onto a steel lamppost in
frustration.  It is when he sees that his grip has turned the post
into so much taffy that he realizes that this is a job for Superman!

The sky-crooks are confident that their jet-platforms can outmaneuver
any police helicopter, but the three men are in for a surprise when
their mode of transportation disappears from under them.  The Action
Ace smiles as the three green-garbed men realize their predicament
before he catches their falling forms at super-speed.  They are
turned over to the officers in a nearby police helicopter.

After flying home to 344 Clinton St., the Man of Steel remembers
telling children how wearing a Superman costume wouldn't give them
superpowers.  Now he wonders if this might not be the case at all. 
Clark Kent is unable to budge his refrigerator, but Superman is able
to lift it with one finger.  As Clark gets ready for the tenants'
meeting, he hears the lobby buzzer.  Frank the Doorman tells Mr. Kent
about the big crate left for him by two men at his apartment.

The Inter-Gang robot inside the crate has been activated upon hearing
the voice of Clark Kent.  The mild-mannered reporter had done a
series of stories about the combine, and hadn't expected such a swift
reply.  The automaton is liable to beat the life out of him if he
doesn't shed his outer clothing.  One punch at the robot's frame
leaves his fist bleeding, and he feels the pain as the last vestige
of clothing is removed.

His superpowers return when the shoe and sock are removed -- mere
moments before the thrown television would have killed Clark Kent. 
The strength from Earth's yellow sun is felt once more and one super-
kick turns the robot into so much junk.  Mrs. Goldstein is knocking
at the door for the tenants' meeting... with Clark apologizing for
the noise from moving some furniture.  The tenants' meeting is the
last thing on his mind, but Mrs. Goldstein wonders if their next door
neighbor, Mr. Xavier, will be there.  After Clark wheels the senior
citizen past the door, "Xavier" peers out after them, and knows that
the inhabitants on this world are quite the nuisance. 

Xviar's plan has gone well, with the Man of Steel having difficulties
with his superpowers.  The agent transmits his report to homeworld
and is informed about his true purpose on Earth.  A client has asked
them to destroy the planet and Xviar is to carry out the order --
with the weapon being Superman himself!  As Mrs. Goldstein wonder how
she'll be able to handle a possible rent increase, Clark wonders if
his own body is trying to tell him something.  Perhaps the strain of
leading a double life has become too much.  Maybe it's time for him
to make a choice -- and decide to live his life as Clark Kent -- or
as Superman!

On the cover of Superman #296, the Man of Steel and the mild-mannered
reporter go their separate ways.  (Holy Odd Couple, Batman!)

"Who Took The Super Out Of Superman?"  Now that's a loaded question
if ever I heard one.

The creative team of Bates, Maggin, Swan, Oksner, and Schwartz
certainly put the "Super" into Superman if you ask me. 

In this story, President Kennedy is the Commander-In-Chief met by

The late President has also met Superman and Superbaby when they
performed special secret missions for the President.

Xviar's alien communication device resembles the modern home
computer.  I wonder what kind of reviews they do on homeworld?

A swarm of killer bees was fodder for an Irwin Allen disaster movie.

The sea-crooks were "outboated" by the Man of Steel.  (Holy Outboat
Motive, Batman!)

The driver of the getaway boat blows a smokestack, but he should be
grateful that Superman didn't blow his stack!

It's game, net, and match when the Action Ace corrals the sea crooks
into the ocean liner's pool.

Lackey's Judo School has a Black Belt instructor by the name of J.

In trying to catch a football, Steve Lombard is almost sacked by a
taxi cab.

Thanks to a super-speed bump from "Clarkie," The Slinger is able to
brag again for another day.

The sight of the tranquilizer being administered was enough to shock
even a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent.

I'm guessing that since humans breathe out carbon dioxide, Clark
didn't end up choking on his super-costume.  (Holy Answer Man,

I love those citizens of Metropolis, "Hey Superman... Do something

I certainly love those sequences where Supes uses his brain to snatch
the jet-platforms from beneath the bad guys at super-speed. 
Definitely gave me a chuckle or two and I think the Man of Steel is
entitled to have some fun, too.

Wow!  Clark Kent pays rent like I do.  I guess it beats living rent-
free at the Fortress of Solitude and being lonely with the metal-
eating mole for company.

Clark actually exclaims, "Great Scott!" at the sight of the rampaging
robot.  Nowadays, it'd probably be "Oh @#$%!"  I'll take the "Great
Scott!" days, thank you very much.

The Intergang robot had caught Clark Kent with his pants down...
luckily for Superman.

Able to withstand a television set being slammed onto his head...
It's a Zenith... it's a Panasonic... it's a plasma screen TV for
Clark Kent.

In a certain summer movie, the lead character's body was trying to
tell him something about leading a double life.  Before 1976 was out,
Superman would be meeting the Amazing Spider-Man.

For Christmas 1975, kids were looking forward to Monogram Models,
Dusty or Skye dolls, Big Jim's P.A.C.K. (Professional
Agents/Killers), and Mego action figures.

Children were also munching on Hostess Cup Cakes and Slim Jim's.

This Review Is Dedicated To Rich Goldberg, who requested that I
review Superman #296 - #300.

I will be reviewing Superman #297 tomorrow, but I do not have
Superman #298 - #300.

If there's anyone on the list who does have the issues and would like
to review the other three stories, Rich and I would love to read
'em.  :)

Steve Chung
"Who Took The Review Out Of Superman!"
(I love review requests!)